WhiteStripes.net Question and Answer Session with Jack White - July 3rd, 2004
I've seen many of your shows and they are always different and exciting. The thing I love the most are the adlibs - we never know when you're going to break into some old obscure song or tell a story. But you don't always do this. What circumstances prompt you to launch into a story about how you wrote Screwdriver or sing a couple verses of an old Howlin Wolf song?
i suppose there are a lot of different reasons why i might do something live. i don't like to talk much at shows because dead air worries me. it makes me feel as if i'm not giving enough, or not pushing myself, and i never like seeing a band and hearing the bass player telling knock knock jokes. so i suppose dead air may provoke me to do something "off the top of my head". i don't like to feel comfortable on stage, that makes me feel like i'm phoning it in and not paying getting anywhere with what i'm doing. meg and i don't really ever rehearse for this reason. i can't really say what makes a certain thing happen, like you said a "howlin wolf" song or something, i don't know what instigates it.
As a long-time fan, I am one who has seen the fanbase of the White Stripes spread and grow to new heights, even just after White Blood Cells became a household name. How often do you look back and miss your humble beginnings? Or are you much happier not looking back and just living in the moment, now that your name and music are more widely known.
there are always things that you miss, and things you don't realize how beautiful they are until they are gone. the gold dollar bar i miss. i liked playing there a lot. but things like playing in the middle of nowhere for ten people everynight, and sharing a motel six room with twelve others could be missed or not missed!
i'm very happy that we have been able to do what we like doing, and that we have shared it with people. i don't have any regrets. i've been handed what i asked for as far as the work that meg and i have put into our creativity.
With your success of Loretta Lynn's 'Van Lear Rose' do you find yourself getting more involved in the production process? Is this something that you see yourself doing in the years to come and somewhat swaying away from performing and reserving yourself behind the mixing board?
i started "producing" pretty much the same time i started playing live in detroit. i recorded and produced a lot of bands 45's for italy records. the first one i think was a band called the fells who were staying at my house. and then the soledad brothers first album, and then the von bondies, along with the detroit compilation. working with loretta was very fulfilling, and i think the best thing i've ever done production wise. i'll always produce, and i kind of always have. i remember i first started playing guitar out of a need to have something to play along to on the drums. i use to record on a four track reel to reel in my bedroom. i had two drum sets, three amps and a p.a. along with a stereo all in a room about ten by ten feet. i slept on an angle in the middle of the room on a fold out piece of foam. that was when i was fourteen of fifteen.
but also i can't see myself giving up writing and performing just to produce. that would be a little boring for me.
I was at the November Roseland show in NY - the second night - when you
really let those "frat boys" have it for moshing and crowd surfing on us
head-bobbin'-and-dancin' happy folks. Do you think there is anything that
can be done in the future to stop these idiots from disrupting our good time
at the shows? Or should we just stop caring and keep on boogey-ing?
that's an old question that sort of has no answer! i remember that show, and it was pretty disgusting, the ones who were jumping obviously could have cared less what we were playing, i think they did that during were going to be friends or something as well, and meg was getting mad about it as well. i warned them first because some girls were getting crushed against the rail. it was terrible. well, they finally stopped, and the whole crowd was aware of it based on their reaction to me making a point about it. but here's some other thoughts to consider,
we warmed up for the rolling stones a while back, and it was in an arena and every seat was sectioned off, and it was quite "polite" you know? it was a far cry from the "rock n' roll" atmosphere that i'm sure their seventies concerts had. but most of the fans now aren't really into that, they just want to see a nice show and not be bothered. well, i'm not a big arena fan myself, and when things feel "plastic" like that it can also get boring like there's no feeling in the room. i was at a fugazi concert about ten years ago or something and one of the members told the crowd to push the surfers backwards instead of forwards! i thought that was interesting. but in the end i don't think there's an answer. but one things for certain. NOONE deserves to get pushed, or crushed against a barrier, or knocked down, or stepped on just because they want to see a band play a show.
Regarding the 'No One Knows How to Talk to Children' documentary, there are rumors that the film is already being sold and circulated on the internet. What are your feelings about this, and do you have the legal means to stop it?
i know for a fact that he's doing that. and i don't want to say his name because that's WHY he's doing all of this, to make a name for himself. seems to be a refrain for the white stripes lately. he's breaking the law, and worst of all he completely broke our trust and confidence in him. we never "stole" any ideas from him. we never 'ripped him off" that's just plain ridiculous. he has no right to screen that film. and definitely no right to send copies to anyone. yes we have the legal means to stop him. he's making a big mistake. the terrible part is, is that we have some great footage if it's edited and mixed properly of some interesting shows. the version he's putting out there is very amateurish and doesn't reflect the usual work, time, style and quality of finished product that we like to produce. of course it doesn't, because he did this against our wishes. he was not forced, or coerced into signing a contract. he's trying to make this a "big deal" to get some recognition, which reminds me of a singer of a band i know. the white stripes own the film %100. he asked us if he could show that film. we said "no not yet" in so many words. he did it anyway. illegal.
What were the real circumstances involved in the fight with Jason Stollsteimer?
let me first say that the reason for me not giving out information about this incident was an attempt to keep from giving jason what he wanted: recognition and fame from negativity. and i still don't want to talk about this for fear of them getting more yardage from it, but i'll try to sort out some of the lies. the entire event was completely exploited by him, his band, and his managers and legal professionals. the two of us did have an argument. and i did spit at him. but what he doesn't say is how he then grabbed me to pull me down and pulled out a good deal of my hair. my retaliation was to hit him to get him off of me. then he landed on my hand, which became cut on the broken glass underneath it. the whole thing lasted less than ten seconds. the photo that jason insisted on having taken (BEFORE the ambulance he called came to get him to take him ONE BLOCK away to the hospital,) was sent to the nme magazine THE NEXT MORNING with the photo credit being that of the von bondies manager rick canni. jason would not allow the dried blood from his bloody nose washed from his face before taking the photo. take a look at it again. it's a black eye once you wash the dried blood off. his face isn't full of cuts. the "permanent damage" that he claims was done to his eye from this is also false. having toured extensively with the man i know that he would refuse to drive the touring van because as a teenager jason left a contact lens in his eye for over a year and then tried to pull it out! he tore his eye in doing so. so jason said he could never drive the van because of his eye! sounded more like laziness to the rest of us. it's the same eye he tried to blame me for permanently damaging. all lies. so ridiculous. the whole thing was this. in jason's mind if he made me out to look like i 'ATTACKED HIM BRUTALLY' and he played the victim the whole time, then his name would get well known and the name of his bands, while mine was "dragged through the mud". he had been doing it to me for almost two years at that point. spreading lies and gossip to friends and especially the press. all of the detroit music scene were laughing at the von bondies by this point. remember also that the band was just about to release their album. so it was perfect timing for them. it's so funny that when the aroma of money and fame is in the air old friends will quickly step on your face to get to it. i was so nice to jason and his band you wouldn't believe it. i let them rehearse in my house for free. i got them signed. i produced their album for free. i didn't credit myself on their album for singing, playing guitar, organ, piano, tambourine, etc. out of respect, we took them on sold out tours around the world where i paid for their plane tickets and food out of my own pocket. but none of that matters when fame and money come into the picture. i really tried to talk to jason, over and over again. i called him several times to ask why he was doing this to me and meg, i tried talking, arguing, ignoring, and forgiving. but nothing would stop him from using me like this. it was me trying to be rational with an irrational person. violence is a ridiculous notion. and i would never walk up to someone with the intent to inflict pain on them. but i'm not going to let someone do the same to me without protecting myself.
it really saddened my to see that a lot of people were believing his lies. but the more you repeat something the more people believe it. if you keep saying it, it becomes true. like how my car accident was in a porsche. that's funny because i remember it being in a ford!
Did you work on any other songs with Loretta that didn't make her
record? if so, are any anticipated to be White Stripes' songs?
in the song "little red shoes" she says "so i wrote a song about it called take my little red shoes away" or something like that. we we're going to cut that song with her as a forty five, but i don't think it's going to happen anymore. there was one other song that we recorded that didn't get on the album, but it just didn't turn out as good as we hoped. hell, we did the album in ten days, not everything is going to ring the bells of heaven!
When the White Stripes chapter is finished, do you have any clue what you will do? Solo material, more behind the scenes work?
i suppose i'll just ramble on and on in polite conversation, in social seclusion, hoping for a chance encounter with a stranger at a truck stop near you, and drawing stage diagrams of future white stripes reunion package tours with other garage acts of a similar nature.
Other than Citizen Kane, are there any particular films or filmmakers that have influenced the White Stripes aesthetic?
Which album are you both most proud of in terms of the hard work put into it and the album itself when it was finished?
the first album, which i believe was self titled would have to be to drawer for me. i can't speak for meg though.
I was just wondering if we can expect to be hearing more of Meg in your new
material? Every time I see her perform In The Cold, Cold Night she seems to
have gotten more and more confident and she really seems to now enjoy the
attention that she once apparently shyed away from. Her first solo song on
Elephant was very well received and I wondered if you had considered writing
another song for her? Is writing for a different character or perspective
something you enjoy?
i've got a lot better things to do with my time then "write" songs for people. seriously, i would love to hear more from meg. i would love if there was more meg than me. or less me than meg. i would love for meg to call once in a while, or pop in for toast. i would love to have her phone number for instance.
you will always see more and more of meg, with or without my help.
With all of the awards, tribute bands, and mass record sales, you've obviously reached a height of fame others only dream about. How has that affected you positively and negatively?
i love the champagne, and i hate the long lines at the supermarket passing numerous atrocious magazines of a star, enquirer, or us nature. i do find the weekly world news to be informative. i love waking up in the morning and going out in the backyard and throwing things at a tree. not to hurt, gosh no. just as a target for lawn chairs.
i like my freedom, and i hate my freedom.
i love music and i hate music
i love having opinions and i hate having opinions
Ya know, if you look back on recent years, it's hard to think of a band that has been as unique as The White Stripes--the colours; the fact there are only two of you; etc. But what I find really neat is your tendency to use older and relatively obscure equipment, such as your 60s Airline guitar.
How important are these older instruments to the White Stripes, and would you ever consider using more popular guitars like Stratocasters, or, as I observed you play with Loretta Lynn, a Tele?
that was a '69 telecaster you saw me play with loretta. i have three guitars that i have used in the white stripes 99 percent of the time. and i don't really see a need to use any different ones yet. i've been given a lot of guitars over the years. but still only own a few. i don't like having a lot of guitars. that's not the point.
but to answer a question, older is usually better. such as used harps, the stand up kind, are more expensive than brand new ones. go figure.
My question is as follows: Do you have any plans to re-release your old WS
7" singles from Italy, Sub Pop, or the Upholsterers 7" from SFTRI? Or, are
you planning on putting out a rarities/b-sides album in the near future?
there will definitely be a c.d. of all of the white stripes b sides and what not coming out in the future. and possibly whole record of the italy catalog. possibly live detroit things here and there, and possible a legal peel session record. all things when the time is right i suppose. but then again moses supposes his toses were roses but moses supposes erroneously.
My mind went blank and I couldn't think of a decent question, so my children Rebecca and James who are also White Stripes fans came up with one:
Dear Jack, are you having a party for you birthday next week and what kind of cake are you going to have? For our birthdays in June mum made Becca a Harry Potter one and Jimmy a Miffy the rabbit one. She could make you a White Stripes one but we live in England and you live in America.
what makes you think i live in america? i live in the hearts of children around the world.
i would love if your mum made me a cake. it's been a while since i had cake. but i don't know if i'm up for a birthday party. too much fuss. maybe a game of catch with a sparkler in a cupcake. thank you for thinking of me though, you made me smile.
Can you give us any insight on the new album? Is it possible that the new album will take on a more country feel because of your recent collaboration with Loretta Lynn?
i can't tell you much. i have some songs written. and me and meg may record this summer, but not too much is definite. i must say though that the time off has made me very inspired to write, and i've been writing for sure. what else is a boy to do? i ask You?
Jack, first of all, congratulations on producing a superbly crafted album from Loretta Lynn, one of the greatest albums I've heard in a very long time. I've read in a few interviews that you consider her to be the greatest female singer-songwriter of the 20th century. I was wondering--who do you consider the greatest MALE singer-songwriter? Would you go with Bob Dylan on that, and if so, is there any chance of a future collaboration between you and Dylan?
for some reason that is a more difficult question than i can answer. and my reason is this. there are so many blues musicians who created so much beautiful music, and founded so many genres of storytelling through melody, that considering them, it's impossible to consider the greatest of them all. is charley patton more important than son house or willie brown? hard to say. my point with loretta was that she broke down barriers for women by writing her own songs when women were not doing that, especially in nashville at the time. she broke a lot of ground for future female singer songwriters. she was the first in many ways.
Jack, a while ago I read in an interview that you were working on an
invention. How's it going? Also, because it is Independence Day, did
you know that Betsy Ross was an upholsterer, not a seamstress as is
i did not know that about betsy ross. thank you. did you know that i own a forty nine star flag? did you know that henry dreyfuss invented the circular honeywell thermostat? did you know that scratches on walls could possibly be recording moments of time just as record cutters do?
i'm not through with my invention yet. but thank you for the encouragement. it may take more private funding to see it's completion.
How is your finger doing these days? Will you need another surgery for it and is it still affecting how you play certain songs?
after a lot of consideration i decided to not undergo a second surgery. and just live with what i've got. it has made playing guitar a great deal more difficult. i had to relearn how to play chords with my other fingers, but in the end i think it's made me a better player, if not just a sorer one!
(This young lady has asked this question since there has been a messageboard here. I found it fitting to finally let her ask it, to The Man himself)
Will you ever come to Peru?
peru......peru..........the jewel of south america, where the andes mountains triumphantly reign over the soft delicate dewy jungles of the everlasting amazonian empire in the continent that man had forgotten was truly created from the light of god.
sure we'll play.